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August 31, 2015

Seven PIA officials suspended for man’s illegal travel to Toronto

National

August 31, 2015

LAHORE: Seven Pakistan International Airlines officials have been suspended from service and are facing departmental inquiry over illegal transportation of a passenger from Lahore to Toronto.
The suspended officers include district manager Lahore, station manager Lahore, in-charge task force Lahore, station manager Toronto, general manager passenger services, passenger support supervisor and manager ramp services.
Senior passenger services manager Lahore Hammad Butt and another official Sumaira Yasmeen, who issued a boarding pass to passenger Mohammad Akram, have already been terminated from service and are being grilled by the FIA.
Passenger support supervisor Zulfiqar Dar was also arrested on Thursday and was being interrogated, sources said.
Mohammad Akram boarded the PIA flight PK-789 on June 16 and managed to reach Toronto airport, where he applied for political asylum. Sources said the station manager Toronto did not intimate the head office or the district office of the happening on time.
The PIA head office came to know about the issue on July 7, on receiving an email from the Canadian authorities seeking details of the passenger.
The GM passenger services forwarded the issue to station manager Lahore, who forwarded it to the district manager serving at that time. The district manager forwarded it to the district head task force, who replied that an action was being initiated.
The Civil Aviation Authority offers CCTV record up to 24 days for any investigation. However, no request was made by the PIA to the CAA for the footage by any of the officials, who were notified of the incident.
During the initial inquiry, Sumaira Yasmeen confessed that she had issued the boarding pass after verifying the required documents and due to her limited knowledge she committed a mistake. However, later on she changed her statement claiming that she was pressured to give that statement.
According to a copy of the investigation and the new

statement of Sumaira available with The News, she said she was on check-in duty of Toronto flight PK-789/1606 when a passenger named M Akram came to her and presented his passport and a ticket.
She checked the ticket and passport and inserted passenger’s name in the system. She found no immigrant visa on his passport. She inquired from the passenger about his visa and he gave her a few papers, she says, adding that she had never seen such papers before. She stated that she looked at the counter of task force. There was no staff available because they had gone to the lounge.
Meanwhile, passenger support supervisor Zulfiqar Dar, who was deputed as passenger guidance supervisor that day, was standing a little far from her counter. He asked her if she was having some issue and she replied in affirmative. She told him that she wanted to give the documents of M Akram to the task force for verification.
Zulfiqar took the papers from her and said the papers were okay and she should let the passenger check in immediately as the flight was going to close. He said further checking would be done by the task force at the boarding gate, she added. Then Zulfiqar Dar told her to go to the domestic counter for check-inn, she said.
She said that she was being threatened and pressured by passenger support supervisors Zulfiqar Dar and Zubair Chaudhry to take entire blame on herself. If she refused, they would get her and her sister, who works as a PIA crew, terminated and will make sure that the FIA makes her life a living hell.
The PIA has changed the inquiry officer for the case twice already. Initially the inquiry was being conducted by ticket office manager Israrul Haq, who according to sources couldn’t take the union’s pressure and dissociated himself from the responsibility. The inquiry was then assigned to Yasir Chaudhry and currently it is being conducted by Haseeb Ahmed, branch manager Speedex Lahore.
PIA Public Relations General Manager Aamir Memon, while responding to queries, said the district manager and station manager had not been suspended. He said the Airlines had zero tolerance for such incidents and all those involved in the scam would be taken to task. He said he was not sure that the CAA CCTV record was not sought by the officials.
About the possibility of presence of racket that facilitates such crimes and the statement of Sumaira whereby she had accused two supervisors, he said all investigation was under way and he wouldn’t comment till the investigators conclude their report.